Many of us have experienced some variety of working from home in the last year and a half as we’ve experienced the coronavirus pandemic. While remote work was necessary during the pandemic to minimize the spread of COVID-19, it was an easier transition for some of us. Parents of small kids, in particular, suddenly had a lot to deal with.
Others of us were content with the change or even preferred working from home. Whichever side you come down on, at times, it’s easy to find yourself in a rut. Telecommuting can easily lead to burnout, so let’s go beyond the basics to share tips on how to reframe your situation and reinvigorate your well-being.
Telecommuting and remote work are a quickly growing sector of the economy, especially as the world emerges from the pandemic. The coronavirus accelerated the trend toward remote work, and the two terms “remote work” and “telecommuting” are often used interchangeably. However, there are distinctions.
The Benefits of Telecommuting
Telecommuting is commonly a reference to a more blended schedule for those living close enough geographically to report to the office or attend meetings in person but spending a portion of their work schedule on tasks from home. Both arrangements offer benefits, like saving on commuting expenses like car insurance for work from home.
The biggest distinction is in whether an offsite physical office is available. Remote workers always work only online. Telework schedules are more flexible, with office time being a regular part of the job.
There’s a big difference in the actual scheduling decisions. Some workers have a fixed schedule, while others have assignments to complete as they are due.
Both arrangements have some drawbacks, including feelings of loneliness due to a lack of social interactions. Some remote workers struggle from a lack of motivation and general work-related stress. These problems are especially common for parents with young children and those living in crowded situations.
For those living alone, isolation can be just as problematic. Other factors that can present problems include dealing with distractions, lack of good time management, and reduced productivity. IT issues can also cause major problems with hardware and internet security problems.
Your Work-From-Home Environment
To improve your remote work experience, start with your work environment. Having a dedicated work area is important, with a dedicated work surface such as a desk or table and a good supportive, comfortable chair with all your work necessities nearby.
Manage your computer and peripheral cables so they are not in your way. Keep your work area as uncluttered as possible. While you’ll want to have anything you use frequently nearby and in sight, too much clutter can be depressing and distracting. You may want a couple of plants nearby to improve mood and air quality.
Minimize distractions as much as possible. Consider ways to make your work area distinct from your personal space. Your work area should be comfortable, quiet and convenient to use for work. Schedule regular breaks for yourself throughout the day, even if it means setting a timer to keep on track.
If you don’t have the option of a dedicated workspace, try using noise-canceling headphones for meetings and calls. When not engaged with others, you might want to stream some calming music or just have the noises around you muted.
Sit near a window during the day as well. The light is cheerful, and it’s good to have something calming to look at occasionally. Get up and stretch your legs every couple of hours.
Your Work-From-Home Routine
During your day, you’ll find that at times, you get distracted, hungry, thirsty, or just tired of what you’re doing. Get up and get a drink of water, coffee, and maybe a snack every couple of hours. Stay hydrated.
Get outside and walk around the block a time or two each day. The change in scenery and moving around really helps clear your head and refocus on your work.
If getting outside for a walk isn’t an option for you, do some stretches or just walk around. If you spend your days on the phone with clients, you can break up your day by challenging yourself to break your step goals by walking around your porch or yard. In bad weather, you can walk in circles in your office.
Take Care of Yourself to Protect Your Mental Health
Be sure and eat something nutritious before you start your workday — a bowl of fruit with cereal, oatmeal, yogurt or cheese. Avoid skipping breakfast.
Working without taking care of yourself is a drag on your energy and your overall health. Starting with good nutrition will help with your concentration as well as your health and life expectancy.
Good nutrition should be part of an overall lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a good night’s sleep. When you are working from home, it can be tempting to keep irregular hours, especially if you set your own schedule. Whether you are a morning person or a night owl, try to keep to a regular schedule as much as possible.
Adults generally need 7 to 8 hours of sleep to be their best. Set aside at least 8 or 9 hours daily for winding down and sleeping. You may also benefit from learning ways to improve your mental health, from practicing a yoga routine to simply meditating. Look into finding a class to learn the basics of yoga or meditation.
You could set a regular date for socializing to be sure you get out of the house regularly. You may want to find a workout class or attend a workshop to learn a new skill. Alternatively, try to attend a regular group for a trivia night at a local bar or just plan to dine out weekly with a group of friends.
Working remotely can be very rewarding personally, allowing you to enjoy life on your terms. Having more control over your time, deciding what your priorities are and the ability to be flexible with your plans are great benefits of working from home.